Marvel fans will recognize this run of issues as the latter part of the Kree-Skrull War, the first major galactic story featuring the Avengers (and Captain America), which began in Avengers #89 (without Cap). The story is enormously influential, often referenced in other comics, but is also convoluted, incorporating many plot threads about Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel), Ant-Man and the Vision, Scarlet Witch and the Vision, the Inhumans, and Rick Jones, many of them taking almost entire issues within the nine-issue storyline about the battle between the Kree and Skrull empires (both introduced in the Fantastic Four’s title by Lee and Kirby). As a result, Captain America does not play a strong role, even in the final five issues in which he appears, so there is not a lot to highlight here (other than the gorgeous Neal Adams art in most of the first four issues), and I’m not going to discuss events not involving Cap at all.
However, “a” Captain America does appear, with Iron Man and Thor, at the end of issue #92 (and its cover, shown to the right) to inform the rest of the Avengers that they are disbanding the team due to the newbies’ support of Mar-Vell against H. Warren Craddock, head of the newly configured Alien Activities Comission who wanted to question him (in an analogy to McCarthyism and the House Unamerican Activities Committee—and here you thought that only happened in X-Men comics!).
As issue #93 opens, we see the same Avengers Prime—deceptively implying continuity of setting, sneaky sneaky—surprised when an injured Vision stumbles into Avengers Mansion. (Note also that on the covers of issues #96 and 97 above, these three Avengers’ names appear above the logo, even though none of them are as prominent there as in most.)
The “spy” is actually Hank Pym operating as Ant-Man—and despite Tony’s greater experience with heart problems, it turns out Cap’s intuition was right regarding Vision’s unique physiology.
Hank takes three of his ants—named Crosby, Stills, and Nash—and shrinks them all down to investigate inside the Vision. (Am I the only one who finds the shrunken ants crawling around inside Vision to be the creepiest part of this scenario?)
I appreciate Cap’s comments below about Hank’s loneliness, given his own experience with the feeling.
Much of this oversized issue is taken up with Hank’s experiences inside Vision (amazingly rendered by Adams), including his seeing something strange that is followed up on when the true origin of Vision’s body is revealed later. When he’s done and the synthezoid Avenger has recovered, the latter tells the three startled Avengers what “they” did in the previous issue.
As Vision explains, the two groups of Avengers then left separately, and the four newer members were attacked by apparently ordinary cattle who nonetheless transformed to look like three of the Fantastic Four—Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, and the Thing. (As Reed explains in the next issue, these were the Skrulls he hypnotized into shapeshifting and remaining as cattle all the way back in Fantastic Four #2.) The Avengers Four were defeated but the Vision managed to escape to Avengers Mansion, and is now mobilizing the rest of the team to find their captured teammates.
Through the rest of the issue, these Avengers, together with Goliath and Rick Jones, fight the FF-Skrulls while Mar-Vell and Carol Danvers (before she became Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel) fight the Skrulls on the ship where Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are held hostage (which was hidden in the farmhouse near the fight). Except, as we find out, this Carol Danvers was also a Skrull, in fact the Super-Skrull, who actually possesses the powers of the FF, whereas the three former Skrull cows duplicate their powers through artificial means. (Comics!)
The ground team beats the three FF-Skrulls, but the Super-Skrull gets away on his ship with Wanda and Pietro, and the rest of the Avengers are feeling defeated, despite Cap’s attempts to raise their spirits.
As issue #94 opens, Captain America sarcastically refers to the defiant Skrull as “Sgt. York,” referring (I assume) to the decorated American soldier from World War I, Alvin York, portrayed by Gary Cooper on the big screen.
Most of the rest of the issue deals with Mar-Vell, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch, but when we return to Earth, it is to a cryptic warning from Nick Fury…
…and a visit from Craddock, who brought some friends.
The Avengers find themselves facing Mandroids, men in armor designed and trained by you-know-who—apparently to be resistant to Cap’s shield, curiously enough. (And I thought Batman was the only one sneaky enough to do something like that.)
Stop trying to make your roller skates cool, Tony.
In the very last panel of issue #94, as the Avengers fight the Mandroids, the Inhuman known as Triton emerges from a manhole, and issue #95 is dominated by the Inhumans, linked to the story by being the subjects of early Kree experiments on Earth. This aspect of the story isn’t worth discussing, but Cap and the others come upon Black Bolt, the Inhumans’ king, trying to save a young boy he’s befriended in San Francisco, and Cap gets to show off his tricky shieldwork.
The Avengers take Black Bolt and Triton back to their home in Attilan to deal with the problems there caused by the king’s brother, Maximus the Mad. (With a name like that…) We do get a nice bit of exposition at the bottom of the panels below describing Cap’s dilemma: helping the Inhuman or saving his fellow Avengers.
After the business in Attilan is settled—during which Rick Jones is captured by a Kree—Cap and the other Avengers swear vengeance (in an iconic image by Adams).
At the beginning of issue #96, the Avengers borrow a spaceship from S.H.I.E.L.D., Cap taking the helm while the story so far is recapped (in case I left anything out).
What they see is an oncoming Skrull armada… and Cap gives a rather less inspiring battle cry than “Avengers Assemble!”
Even though the exposition below is particularly apt for Cap, it refers to all the Avengers. (He’s not the only virtuous one, after all.)
The Avengers fight their way onto the lead Skrull ship and confront their commandant, but Cap is specifically attuned to Vision’s mood (as demonstrative as he is). (Quicksilver also began to pick up on his sister and Vision’s mutual affections in issue #93.)
There isn’t much of interest as far as Cap’s ethics are concerned from here on out. He doesn’t appear much at all in issue #97… at least not in his modern form. Rick Jones actually saves the day after the Kree Supreme Intelligence grants him tremendous power, which Rick uses, in part, to bring a number of Golden Age heroes to life, including WWII-era Cap. (Actually, it was writer and Golden Age fan Roy Thomas, with the help of penciller John Buscema, who brought them back. Call this the first appearance of the expanded Invaders, if you want!)
Rick nearly kills himself saving the Avengers by weakening both the Skrulls and the Kree, but Mar-Vell merges with him to save his life. Also, Craddock was also a Skrull (which explains his antipathy toward Mar-Vell). Most interesting for our purposes, when the Avengers are returned to Earth, Goliath is missing, last seen breaking into a Skrull ship in issue #96. Whither Clint? We’ll find out soon…
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #98-100 (April-June 1972)